HUNTERSVILLE – Walmart’s grand opening in July drew a line of visitors to the store off Bryton Town Center Drive at 8 a.m.

The shopping rush hasn’t slowed much since then at the 24-hour retailer, located near North Mecklenburg High School. Take a quick drive through the area most days and you’ll still see a horde of cars in the parking lot.

What the lake area has had are Target and Walmart stores. What it lacked, however, is a Sam’s Club – until Jan. 23, when a club opened off River Highway in Mooresville.

It joins Walmarts in Huntersville, Denver and Mooresville; Targets in Huntersville and Mooresville; and a BJ’s Warehouse in Mooresville as the region’s major big-box retail stores.

The Huntersville Walmart is the anchor store for Bryton, a 450-acre, mixed-use development with 1 million feet of retail space. Business was booming from the time it opened, Store Manager Lori Tackett said.

Sam’s Club – a members-only club owned by Walmart and named for founder Sam Walton – brought 160 jobs to Mooresville.

Club Manager Patrick Walker said the club’s plans to be in the lake area began several years ago. The nearest Sam’s Clubs to the lake area, prior to the Mooresville opening, were in Hickory, Kannapolis and the University City area of Charlotte.

“We saw (joining the Lake Norman market) as a chance for us to get our brand out there,” Walker said. “We’ve got a lot to offer the Lake Norman and Mooresville communities.

“This is a very vibrant area. It’s still growing. We want to be here for good customer service and products, and we think we’ll be an asset to the people.”

The 136,000-square-foot warehouse club is open to members, who buy memberships ranging from $45 to 100 in cost.

One of the club’s most famous members, Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, was on hand for the opening in Mooresville.

Olsen joined fellow Panther Captain Munnerlyn and NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Jeffrey Earnhardt in meeting visitors throughout the day.

While it was his first trip to the lake area, Olsen – a South Charlotte resident – said he was impressed with the region and its ability to continually add more businesses in its towns.

“I think it’s awesome,” Olsen said. “It just shows the amount of jobs that come with a place like this. I think people are excited. I know I’m a big shopper at the Sam’s Club near us down south. I really think it’s awesome.

“It’s nice to see that the northern part of the Charlotte region is continuing to kind of bloom. People continue to move here. It’s a great area.”

Walker said what makes big-box retailers successful in regions like Lake Norman is the confidence that a growing population needs more varied retail options.

“You want to be a big help to the local consumer, and we’re glad to be a part of this area,” he said. “Us being here is going to help a lot of people, by giving them another affordable option for shopping.”